adventure

How to Do It BETTER: Howard the Duck

Jun 22 // Sean Walsh
1. Send Howard to Earth When we last saw him, our stalwart protagonist (who would be voiced once again by Seth Green) was hanging out in Knowhere with Benecio del Toro's Collector and Cosmo the Space Dog. That's all well and good, but Guardians really has captured the market on Marvel's space-y real estate, and with Captain Marvel's Kree background, we'll assuredly get more space stuff there. Howard would be swallowed up surrounded by other extra-terrestrial characters and locales. So, naturally, we need Howard "trapped in a world he never made." That world, of course, is Earth. A surly, walking, talking duck on a planet of talking mammals is full of potential humor.  2. No Origins, Please Why spend two and a half hours dealing with where he came from when you can tell a wacky story (more on that below) out of the gate? Just do like The Incredible Hulk did and get that all out of the way in the opening credits. Even his trip to Earth can be told during the opening titles. Hell, Guardians 2 could deal with that. The film should start like a film noir, with Howard staring out the window of his crappy private eye's office drinking a glass of scotch, doing his best Jon Hamm from Mad Men. If you have to do an origin, have him narrate it to the audience during this opening scene. 3. Cast the Right Redhead If we're going to go the private duck (ha!) noir direction, you need a dame. In walks Beverly Switzler, played by gorgeous redhead Jane Levy (Suburgatory, the Evil Dead remake). Levy is funny, sharp as a tack, and certainly worthy of the "of all the run-down private eye offices in New York, she had to walk into mine" treatment. We'll remove the 'nude' from 'nude model' on her resume, but make her pretty enough for Howard to recognize and even lust after. You see, Beverly's photographer boyfriend Chuck has gone missing down in Florida and she needs help finding him. But why come to Howard the Duck all the way in New York? Well, you see, there are some weird circumstances to his disappearance. Something about a swamp, a monster...something a normal private eye wouldn't take seriously. Howard So you came to the one PI in New York City that's a talking duck? Beverly nods. Beverly Yeah, exactly.  Howard looks down at his feet. Howard (exasperated) Waugh... 4. Give Them Their Very Own Groot! So, Beverly pays Howard's fees and the two set a course for Florida, flying first class (jokes abound). They arrive in Florida, drive out to the small, backwoods town where Beverly's boyfriend was last seen and Howard does his detective thing. Naturally, it is an uphill battle as he is a talking duck in a small swamp town. But eventually, he gets a lead and they make their way to the swamp where Chuck vanished. Of course, not before an old man warns them both of the swamp monster that protects his territory. Crazy Old Man It's some sort of...thing...that walks like...like a man! Howard rolls his eyes. Howard Like, a Man-Thing? The old man eagerly nods, his eyes wide. Crazy Old Man Just like a Man-Thing! Disregarding the old coot, the two make their way to the swamp. It isn't long before they come upon the Man-Thing in all his mossy glory. Howard quacks in fear and pulls out his pistol, which causes the creature to reach out for him. Beverly, she of the steel nerves, puts herself between them. The creature isn't there to hurt them, she tells Howard. Its simply there to protect something. She explains to the Man-Thing that they are looking for her boyfriend, Chuck. The creature, it seems, understands her, and leads them further into the swamp. Think Groot, just without the whole "I am Groot" thing. Also, if you're wondering what the connection is betwixt our feathered friend and a giant plant golem is? Well, fun fact: Howard the Duck first appeared in issue #19 of Man-Thing's original comic, Adventure Into Fear, and the two have crossed paths on numerous occasions. It seems only right to bring them together for the first time on the big screen. 5. Expand the Universe(s) Now, I'm sure Dr. Strange is going to make the MCU a little bigger, but if there's one thing that Marvel has in spades (besides Spider-People, line-wide crossover events, and D-list villains), it's alternate realities. Deep in the heart of Man-Thing's swamp lies the Nexus of All Realities. We don't know what it's called yet, of course, but that's what it is. Before they discuss what it is, something comes out through the other side. Something weird. A vampire ninja, maybe. Or a cybernetically-animated superhero corpse (a la Deathlok, specifically from the Uncanny X-Force arc full of Deathlok heroes). Man-Thing quickly dispatches of the visitor with its massive strength and corrosive touch. Beverly Does that...happen a lot? The Man-Thing nods. It would seem, Beverly deduces, that Chuck fell into the Nexus. Howard informs her that he is not getting paid enough and that his own reality is weird enough. Beverly offers to triple her fee and our hero gracefully accepts. Howard, Beverly, and their new friend Man-Thing step through. Things get...weird from here. 6. Give Them a Familiar Bad Guy in a New Context The trio of unsuspecting heroes find themselves smack-dab in the middle of a war zone. A paltry resistance is crushed by giant war machines, all of which are marked with the HYDRA insignia. HYDRA troops surround our heroes. Howard H-hail HYDRA? A HYDRA trooper tazes him into unconsciousness. When Howard awakens, he and Beverly are in a high-tech prison cell. Man-Thing is gone, but who should be locked in the cell next to theirs but Chuck (played by someone hunky and relatively popular, like Robbie Amell or the Teen Wolf guy)! Reunited at last, but under fairly dismal circumstances. A guard comes to take them away. But not just any guard. It's Ward from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! That son of a gun. He has come to take Howard to HYDRA's labs to be dissected. It is at this point, upon the cell being opened, that Howard is finally able to display one of his greatest talents: Quack-Fu. He quickly and easily dispatches Ward and frees Chuck. Beverly is clearly impressed by his martial arts prowess but Howard shrugs it off, the consummate cool cucumber. He wants to escape, but Beverly insists they can't leave Man-Thing behind. Howard goes to object, but she points out that it's their ticket home. Guessing that the monster is in the laboratory, the three make their way there. Along the way Chuck tells them about the reality they're in. Back in the 40's, the Red Skull successfully defeated Captain America, and using the power of the Tesseract, took over the world. There are no heroes (even the Asgardians had fallen to the might of the Tesseract) and aside from pockets of resistance like the one we saw upon their arrival in this reality, HYDRA is the world of the day. But Red Skull is not in charge anymore, no sir, his most trusted adviser, Arnim Zola (the ineffable Toby Jones), betrayed him, killed him, and took control of HYDRA and subsequently the world. Now, obviously this is to get around the Red Skull, Cap, and the rest. But that's not to say that Ward would be the only cameo, no sir. 7. Make It a Great Escape Their suspicions are correct: Man-Thing is on the cutting table. The two scientists operating on him? Why, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons, also from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In this reality, they, like Ward, have German accents as a result of HYDRA's global control. The trio watch them bicker briefly before taking them out and freeing the Man-Thing. Unfortunately, Simmons triggers an alarm before Beverly can knock her out. A whole squad of HYDRA goons storms the lab and it looks like our heroes are done for. But then the Calvary arrives, literally. The wall explodes and The Resistance has arrived, led by none other than Phil Coulson himself. With him are Melinda May (possibly having become Deathlok herself), Antoine Triplett, Alphonso "Mack" MacKenzie, Inhuman Daisy Johnson (Quake, if you're nasty), and her father Cal, along with a whole squad of rag-tag resistance members. Howard Who are you? Coulson We're S.H.I.E.L.D. Howard What's that stand for? Coulson Been a little busy trying to liberate the world from HYDRA, haven't had a lot of time to think up acronyms. With Daisy's abilities, Howard's Quack-Fu, Man-Thing's brute strength, and Coulson's leadership, they make short work of the HYDRA forces they come up against. But it isn't long before they come up against the big man himself, Zola, and his number two: an unscarred Crossbones (total badass Frank Grillo). Zola has taken on his familiar form in the comics, a face on a monitor on a robot body. Zola and Coulson exchange words and a big climatic fight ensues. In the fracas, Crossbones is scarred by Man-Thing but left alive (mirroring his fate in Cap 2), Howard very nearly sacrifices himself to save Chuck and Beverly from Zola, and finally, Zola is defeated. However, the war against HYDRA isn't over. This was just one of Zola's many bodies and as a digital consciousness ("cut off one head" and all that), he's already up and at them elsewhere. The only way to truly defeat him is to find his central consciousness and destroy it. On the bright side, S.H.I.E.L.D. has a Helicarrier now. Coulson offers Howard, Chuck, and Beverly spots in S.H.I.E.L.D. Howard and Beverly decline, but Chuck accepts. Beverly pleads with him to change his mind, but Chuck says he found his calling. They share one last kiss and everyone says their goodbyes. Man-Thing teleports Howard and Beverly to that reality's swamp and they go through the Nexus. Howard Wait...you could teleport this whole time? Man-Thing shrugs its shoulders. Howard (frustrated) WAUGH! 8. Give It A Happy Ending Howard, Bev, and Man-Thing are back home. Howard and Beverly bid farewell to their jolly green friend and make their way back to civilization. Beverly is obviously still very broken up about Chuck. Howard tries to find the words to comfort her, but gives up and takes a different route. Howard Hey, Bev? Beverly (sniffles) Yes, Howard? Howard You wanna grab a drink at that bar we stopped at earlier? Beverly The one you almost got murdered in? Howard shrugs. Howard After almost getting turned into roast duck by a Nazi robot with a TV for a face, a couple'a bikers don't seem so scary in retrospect. Beverly thinks about it. Beverly You know what, Howard? That sounds really nice. My treat. She reaches out a hand as they walk. Howard stares at it for a moment and then takes it in his. He looks at the screen and smiles. Howard (happily) Waugh. 9. Get the Tone Right We're talking about a sarcastic, angry duck-man here. If anything, Howard the Duck should be a dark comedy first, with action and adventure thrown in to give the audience what they want. People can accept a super-soldier, tech genius, and hunky Norse god. A talking duck detective is going to have it a little harder. There's all sorts of humor and pathos to be found in Howard's trials and tribulations, and sticking him in the middle of a warzone is sure to have plenty of comedic opportunities. 10. Get the Right Director Obviously, James Gunn would be my first choice but he'll probably have a pretty full dance card by the time Avengers: Infinity War Part II has come and gone. It would be important to have somebody fully capable of big, over-the-top actions scenes, humor, and noir. Honestly, there's only one name on my least: the unlawfully handsome Robert Rodriguez. He has pretty stellar range and experience with the aforementioned areas between films like Planet Terror, Machete, and Sin City. Sure, next to Edgar Wright he is my favorite director, but there are plenty of good reasons for that. 11. Make the Mid and Post-Credits Scenes Matter  Sure, this is a Howard the Duck movie, but it can still lend itself to good world-building. I think it's more or less universally agreed that Iron Man 2 is one of the weakest links in the Cinematic Universe's chain (I, myself, liked it just fine), but I'll be damned if people didn't lose their minds when they saw Mjölnir in the desert. For the mid-credits scene, show us the result of Howard and Bev returning the the bar. Have them both looking exhausted with their beers, then slowly pull away to reveal a bar-full of unconscious bikers. That's Quack-Fu, baby. Then, after the credits? Maybe return to the other reality. Arnim Zola blinks to life in a new body, as predicted. He reflects to himself that maybe his time on Earth has come to an end and activates a device. A wormhole opens. Zola smiles. Arnim Zola Next stop: Dimension-Z. He enters it and the wormhole closes behind him. Cut to black. Dimension-Z is a world dominated by Zola in Rick Remender's Captain America, where Steve Rogers ends up in for over a decade. Of course, Rogers won't be Cap anymore by the time Howard the Duck rolls around, but there's no reason we can't adapt the storyline to accommodate for Buck Barnes, the new Captain America (with an 11-movie contract, it's pretty obvious he won't be the Winter Soldier forever). It's a fun dystopian story full of action, adventure, and mad science. We certainly haven't seen anything like that yet from Marvel Studios! Just imagine: Captain America: Escape From Dimension Z! 12. Can't Forget the Stan Lee Cameo! Since Stan the Man is immortal, obviously he will make a cameo complete with requisite one-liner. Maybe as a drunk biker in the first bar scene or the guy in the cell on the other side of Howard and Beverly's! I can see it now: Howard looks over at the cell on the other side of his. An OLD MAN with a black eye sits on the prison cot. Howard What happened to you? A grin washes over the man's face. Old Man You should see the other guy! So, there you have it. That's how you make a Howard the Duck movie. Lots of laughs, lots of surly sarcasm, lots of action, a liberal dose of easter eggs (Howard: Yeah, we're on an adventure, alright...an Adventure Into Fear!), and Marvel makes another few hundred million. Aside from Howard's CG, there's not a whole lot in the way of budgetary drains, especially working largely with television actors. Despite his decades of relative obscurity, people are already aware of Howard courtesy of Guardians, which is a big step in the right direction. In the hands of a capable director like Rodriguez, with a cast consisting of Green, Levy, and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and Kyle Maclachlan, that beautiful son of a gun), Howard the Duck could be Marvel's next Guardians.  Did I just write the pitch for the first new movie of Phase Five? Am I way off base? Think your Howard the Duck idea is better than mine? Sound of in the comments.
HTDIB: Howard the Duck photo
WAUGH!
[How To Do It BETTER takes a look at films that already exist that could use the tender love and care only a reboot can bring. Some were good, some were...not. Either way, Flixist takes an in-depth look at how to make it bett...

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Flix for Short: Manly


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New trailer for Norwegian adventure movie Ragnarok


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Rumor: Indian Jones could go the way of Bond


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Peter Jackson still intent on making Tintin 2


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Check out these awesome Mondo Pacific Rim posters


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Pacific Rim featurette shows off lots of robots, action


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Jonathan Rhys Meyers in talks for Star Wars: Episode VII?


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Peter Jackson's Hobbit back in production for pick ups


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Paul Verhoeven wants to direct The Legend of Conan


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Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

May 15 // Nathan Hardisty
Star Trek Into DarknessDirector: J.J Abrams Release Date: May 9, 2013 (UK); May 15, 2013 (US IMAX), May 16, 2013 (US non-IMAX)Rating: 12A (UK), PG-13 (US) [embed]215165:39838:0[/embed] Into Darkness follows the next chapter of Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) of the Starship Enterprise. From the very beginning, Kirk's leadership is questioned and ripped open by some dramatic events. What happens, alongside all this, is an act of terrorism in London which plunges the entire Federation into alert and into full scale manhunt mode. Kirk is sent, off the record, to track down the man behind the attacks, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), and is soon thrown into inter-galactic political tensions, alien threats and sciency-wiency laser battles. Kirk must destroy the near unstoppable Harrison and uncover the darker truth underneath Starfleet Command. The plot honestly borrows quite heavily from the likes of The Avengers and The Dark Knight, with most of it revolving around the capture of a dangerous figure and the truth behind the destruction he brings to the world. The film decides to go into full-scale Empire Strikes Back-mode and has character conflicts, reversed relationships, action pieces full of genuinely terrifying sequences and some final beats that reveal the true emotional depth in Abrams' sci-fi tinged fingertips. The plot and general thrust of the film is simplistic, often predictable at times, and yet the evolution of the characters and enthralling pace just keeps you still second-guessing every single moment of this sugary roller-coaster ride. That's not to say the film is completely obsessed with superficial, fizzy detail. The lens flares, clean white atmosphere of the Enterprise and set design all create this gorgeous and often breathtaking scenery that holds a delicious place for Into Darkness to play out. Abrams' meshing of physical sets with digital artistry fuels more confidence that he has complete handle over what makes modern science-fiction truly buzz with excitement, injecting great hope into the claim that he'll make Star Wars work again. What really works, more than anything in the film, is its attention to detail with the characters. These are all treasured icons, and yet Abrams is somehow able to craft new emotional depth and collide new elements together to bring to light what makes Star Trek such a great avenue for exploring characters and relationships. I've never understood the 'bland' and 'unoriginal' critique of Abrams' work. The emotional pulp realism of Cloverfield, the ode to nostalgia in Super 8 and now the crucible of characters with Star Trek show an absolute commitment to humanity, feeling and history. Into Darkness delivers moments in which both Trekkies and everyone else will absolutely delight in equally; it is a simultaneous faithful and fresh vision, one that could be used in a quantum physics textbook as an analogy. That marriage of past and present is possibly the greatest  achievement of Abrams' career thus far. The film doesn't play fast and loose with its roots in any way, besides some small odd referencing that just seems to exist for referencing sake. The fresh up-scaling of the Enterprise is still incredibly faithful, the make-up and costumes carry that same intricate attention that the original series embodied, and it's, as a whole, a trip into what makes Star Trek wonderful. The action set-pieces are all engaging, though a few of these pieces may be a little bit flabby. The film's pace still keeps on that Warp throttle to create a deliciously dizzy sense of involving inertia that never lets your attention fade. Characters rip flaws in each other and shout out revelations over loud explosions and crackling phaser stun-ning shootouts. This is really a film that manages to get its exposition in both subtle and literally explosive means. Into Darkness has a fluid structure to that, just as it seems jarring or jumpy, manages to tie itself all together in succinct ways and develop itself further. Some entire sub-plots are resolved in five to seven words and Abrams manages to still make it all incredibly satisfying to the point of absolute glee. The centerpiece of this film, however, has to be its performances. Chris Pine shines as a Kirk under some impossible pressure, layering on some great showcase of his emotional flexibility and ability to fluidly move from snarky witticisms to full-on feelings. Zachary Quinto's Spock deals with existentialist drama and his entire character arc serves as the film's main thematic backdrop, allowing Quinto to show off his own brand of Spock that makes every single blink from him just make you believe he was born for the role. The way that Abrams manages to neatly insert a special piece of Star Trek history inside of Spock's character arc, to show off Quinto's juicy acting chops, is a testament to the true intelligence that rides inside the film. Benedict Cumberbatch's John Harrison is an incredible shock to the Star Trek system, creating a presence of absolute terror and awe in every scene he is in. If you're a fan of Sherlock you'll be surprised to see just how physical of an actor he can be, and just how scared you'll be to see his cheekbones appear. Zoe Saldana as Uhura is given some time to show off her absolute badassery, while newcomer Alice Eve stutters ever so slightly to find her place on board. Praise also has to be showered on Simon Pegg's Scotty who manages to keep the film in its most outlandish moments still grounded in heartfelt and bubbly territory. My only criticism is that Yelchin's Chekov and Cho's Sulu are relegated to 'sitting around' duty while the entire film takes place. It really feels focused on a handful of the crew members rather than feeling like an entire team's journey into the unknown. Into Darkness is a practically perfect Summer blockbuster. It's not exactly clever in its plot activity and some of its Trekkie references just sit around as mere tidbit mentions rather than actually meaning anything. Still, however, this is an absolutely Cumbersbash of a film. It's a rocket-propelled, stunning symphony of cracking action pieces, character crashes and moments of absolute jaw-dropping delight that just crackles with what a Summer blockbuster should be. Abrams delivers an entirely fresh leap out of the new Star Trek broth, managing to keep it exciting and buzzing with thrills galore. This is, so far, the best film of Summer and, aside from a few niggles from MIA characters, plot holes and pacing that is sometimes unforgiving, it's an otherwise incredible journey into the heart of Star Trek. Abrams, with these films, shows how he is the absolute auteur of blending the old-fashioned with the new-fashioned and shows off exactly what a treat we have in store for us when we get his offering of Star Wars fantasy.
Star Trek II Review photo
Set phasers to Cumberbatch
I thoroughly enjoyed the first Abrams Star Trek with all of its timeline meshing, cute references and lens flares. Into Darkness has been on my radar for a good while, and with Abrams now in the chair for Star ...

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David Goyer helming new Count of Monte Cristo adaptation


Mar 19
// Hubert Vigilla
Eventually I'll get to reading Alexandre Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo. Eventually. In fact, I'm looking at my good, cheap 880-page Wordsworth Classics copy of it right now and I'm thinking, "Yup, I'd love to read this......
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New Robin Hood movie called Merry Men in development


Mar 04
// Hubert Vigilla
Robin Hood has been a staple of big screen adventure ever since the days of Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn. The most recent high-profile Robin Hood movie was the 2010 Ridley Scott film starring Russell Crowe, which most pe...
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The Hobbit: There and Back Again delayed to December 2014


Peter Jackson's trilogy capper moves from summer to winter
Mar 01
// Hubert Vigilla
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UPDATE: Super Bowl TV spot for Star Trek Into Darkness


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Feb 05
// Hubert Vigilla
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Super Bowl TV spot for The Lone Ranger


It could be worse, kemo sabe
Feb 04
// Hubert Vigilla
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Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Jan 25 // Logan Otremba
[embed]212729:38795[/embed] Hansel & Gretel: Witch HuntersDirector: Tommy WirkolaRating: PG-13Release Date: January 25, 2013 Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters starts off similarly to the fairy tale and continues roughly where the fairy tale left off by having the siblings becoming orphans at a young age. Years later, they become bounty hunters of the witch-kind since they seem to kill them efficiently. Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have become experts in their field seeing as they were able to kill a witch as children and somehow not die in the process. They are hired to find out what happened to some children, and the townspeople assume that it is the fault of witches and have gone the ways of Monty Python and the Holy Grail by seeing if a woman named Mina (Pihla Viitala) is a witch. A witch by the name of Muriel (Famke Janssen) has taken the children so that all witch-kind can become more powerful. Thus Hansel, Gretel, and a handful of sidekicks have to save the day and the children. The movie is strung together with an easy to follow plot and numerous actions scenes of the siblings hunting down witches. It does try to add a sprinkle of complexity to the story by adding in a toss away romance, and a back story to explain the siblings’ ability to hunt witches and what happens to their parents. It just doesn’t really add more to the overall story though; however it doesn’t detract from it either. The love story does strike a chord for me only because it was under developed and it ends in such an anti-climactic way. Between the backstory of why the siblings were orphaned and the love story, there is a whole good versus evil motif that tries to play out but ends up being underwhelming. It could have led to a potentially awesome witch versus witch action sequence, but it instead becomes a cop out to ending one of the story arcs. I will say that the movie does have an interesting world that is crossbreed of two time periods. This is highly recognizable in the weaponry that the siblings use in the movie because everything is basically modern technology re-imagined as 18th century technology. With them having access to modern day weapon look-alikes, it makes action sequences less complex to a degree. I would have liked to see them have flint-lock pistols and blunderbusses while trying to hunt down these witches because it would be more of a challenge for them. Still, these weapons and tools lead to some creative methods towards the eradication of the witches. When these action scenes play out though, it devolves into rapid cutting along with trying to keep up with whom is fighting who. The witches also added an interesting element to the world of the film. They appear as grotesque, and animalistic in nature. Gone is the iconic cackling laugh of a typical witch, and insert more growling and hissing in its stead. I rather liked the different approach to what is a witch. It was a nice change from the norm, and added the idea that there are many different types of witches. Despite the appaently harsh outlook of the movie, I found myself laughing throughout it and enjoying it as well. While the story is not exactly original and is predictable, it has pretty decent pacing and is enough to keep on paying attention. Renner and Arterton have some good chemistry between them when they are together on the screen, providing a well-represented brother and sister relationship. They are the stars of the movie, leading to the assortment of secondary and tertiary characters that are really not necessary. One more important secondary character, Ben (Thomas Mann), does not have much screen time. When he does though, the scene could have been easily done with him not there because his character doesn’t contribute much to the film. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is very much a run-of-the-mill action-adventure movie. We got the interesting action scenes, creative methods of witch extermination, and a pretty creative, dark twist on the original fairy tale. It isn't awful, but it isn't even remotely a cinematic masterpiece.
H&G Review photo
This is not your parents' fairy tale
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Trailer: Mud


Jan 18
// Nick Valdez
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Trailer: Trance


Jan 10
// Liz Rugg
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Book: Tarzan - The Centennial Celebration

Dec 17 // Hubert Vigilla
Tarzan - The Centennial Celebration is the size of two vintage pulp magazines. Tarzan was a character so much of his time. In his foreword to the book, Tarzan actor Ron Ely situates the character smack in the middle of 1912. A century ago, travel was treacherous and difficult. The comforts of society and its technological innovations would be rivaled by the primordial tumult of the jungle wild. These overgrown and unmapped places housed mysteries -- intelligent apes, lost cities, unknown (and therefore likely cannibalistic) tribes. That's just part of the zeitgeist that gave birth to Tarzan, though. There's also the nascent superhero model built in the pulp adventures of the early 20th century, with characters like Tarzan and John Carter paving the way for Philip Wylie's Gladiator, Robert E. Howard's Conan, Lee Falk's The Phantom, and Doc Savage (though created by three people, the character is best linked to the mind of co-creator Lester Dent). And then there's Burroughs himself, and 1912 was an ideal year for him to make a living for as a writer, something that seems more difficult now, especially given the pressure to do this sort of thing while young. Burroughs turned 37 in 1912, the year he wrote and published his first John Carter and Tarzan stories. Before this, he'd been unhappy and/or unsuccessful at his other jobs: stenography department manager at Sears, patent medicine salesman, proprietor of a stationary store, and railroad policeman. (Today, all of those occupations would probably pay better than full-time fiction writer.) After covering Burroughs's early life and first writings, Griffin steers the reader through The Centennial Celebration book by book in chronological order. There's a basic plot synopsis for each Tarzan tale accompanied by some excellent full-color art by people like Neal Adams, Frank Frazetta, Joe Kubert, and Boris Vallejo. A few original Burroughs sketches are included as well. The Tarzan synopses are followed by some publication history, which explores how Burroughs negotiated payments with various competing pulps and leveraged his growing popularity to his advantage. There's a certain anarchic absurdity to the later Tarzan books that is absolutely incredible Along the way, Griffin takes time to dispel a few Tarzan misconceptions. For one, the Tarzan of the Burroughs stories was well-versed in many languages rather than a grunting, monosyllabic savage. He could speak English, Mangani (ape language), German, Arabic, Swahili, French, Dutch, and much more. Essentially, if the story called for it, you could count on Tarzan to know it. The Centennial Celebration even includes an ape-to-English and English-to-ape glossary, showing Burroughs's dedication to world building. (If only there was more time -- there would be an entire section of this piece written in ape.) The MGM movie version of Tarzan (played by Weissmuller) defined many public perceptions about the character, which explains the common idea of Tarzan as a dim yet noble brute. This frustrated Burroughs to no end and led him to produce his own Tarzan films with Herman Brix in the lead. The Centennial Celebration details some of MGM's studio tactics to limit the success of the Brix films. The most interesting misconceptions about Tarzan stemming from the films involves two supposed Tarzanisms: "Me Tarzan, you Jane" and the all-purpose ape-language word "umgawa." Neither of these appeared in Burroughs's books. ("Umgawa" is clearly ape for "Play it again, Sam" and "Elementary, my dear Watson.") As Burroughs progressed with his Tarzan books, his imagination seemed to become unbridled, hurtling Tarzan into undiscovered cities, sending the hero to fight against the Nazis, and even placing him in fantastical situations. In the tenth Tarzan book, Tarzan and the Ant Men, Tarzan teams up with the diminutive race of humans known as the Minunians, a clear riff on the Lilliputians from Gulliver's Travels. (And of course Tarzan speaks Minunian.) There's also an adventure in the world of Pellucidar, a land in the hollow interior of the Earth that can only be accessed by a hole in the North Pole. While in Pellucidar, Tarzan (who obviously speaks the language) battles pterodactyls and other prehistoric creatures. Not only does Tarzan conquer the wild while traipsing between the savage world and the civilized world, he battles the unknown, the unimaginable, the unreal. Waiting for Tarzan in the 21st century And I suppose it's this absolute openness to the Tarzan tales that makes me wonder why there hasn't been a 21st century attempt at a Tarzan film. Here's a character whose fingerprints are all over superhero comics and imaginative fiction -- from the perambulations of Spider-Man, to the primate obsessions in DC Comics (e.g., the gorilla cities of The Flash), to the homage/pastiche in Alan Moore's Tom Strong and Warren Ellis's Planetary. The character is still well known, and I'm pretty sure children still know what a Tarzan yell sounds like and could mimic one if pressed. Though maybe Tarzan would have suffered a box office fate similar to his fellow Burroughs centenarian, John Carter. I wonder if there's something distinctly early-20th-century about Tarzan in the same way there's something so late-19th-century about Captain Nemo and Phileas Fogg. Is there something about the foundling in the wild becoming a hero that doesn't transfer to the heroes of the 21st century? We prefer our orphans in human homes, maybe. Even if Tarzan is a kind of relic, there's a certain kind of spirit that seems ripe for exploration. If the Disney Tarzan could use skateboarding to help send the character around the trees (which sounds even more quintessentially 90s when I type it out), why not parkour on the jungle floor and up in the canopies of trees? There's less and less to explore in the wild, which is definitely different than the world Burroughs lived in. And travel is more convenient -- daring hipster tourists with the right vaccinations and a little know-how could probably tackle the jungle with some help from local guides. If lost in the jungle, they'd only need to listen for an engine somewhere while following the advice of Les Stroud and Bear Grylls. (Me Tarzan... better drink my own piss?) But there seems to be room for Tarzan in the 21st century. Perhaps it just needs a kick of Burroughs-like imagination to make it happen.
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Scott Tracy Griffin looks at 100 incredible years of Tarzan
Last month, Titan Books released Tarzan - The Centennial Celebration by Scott Tracy Griffin, a massive full-color coffee table book that looks at 100 years of Tarzan. It's a gorgeous book, and perfect whether you're an avid f...

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Peter Jackson working on Tintin sequel for 2015


Dec 13
// Hubert Vigilla
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes out tomorrow, but Peter Jackson isn't ready to slow down. He's already shooting a new movie next year: a sequel to Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin. Jackson served as co...

Trailer: The Lone Ranger

Dec 11 // Hubert Vigilla
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Newest trailer for Gore Verbinski's expensive western epic starring Johnny Depp
A new trailer has just come out for The Lone Ranger, Gore Verbinski's big-budget action-western starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, and Helena Bonham Carter. While I don't think it's as good as the first trail...

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13-minute featurette on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


New footage of Peter Jackson and company in this behind-the-scenes video
Dec 07
// Hubert Vigilla
We're one week away from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and if you're looking for some new footage to get you hyped, here's a 13-minute featurette for the film via Warner Bros. Belgium. It's got loads of new stuff, inclu...
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New Hobbit TV spot and Entertainment Weekly covers


Dec 06
// Hubert Vigilla
For some reason it hasn't quite dawned on me that I'll be seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey next week at midnight. The original Lord of the Rings Trilogy came out when I was in college, and I remember going to the mid...
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Teaser: The Monkey King


Donnie Yen's Chinese odyssey looks like a bogus Journey to the West
Dec 04
// Hubert Vigilla
Yesterday we shared the new poster for The Monkey King from director Soi Cheang, a forthcoming Chinese fantasy film based on characters from the book Journey to the West. The film stars Donnie Yen, Chow Yun-fat, Aaron Kwok, ...
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New Hobbit TV spot has brief glimpses of Smaug


Dec 03
// Hubert Vigilla
The latest TV spot for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey features a few scant shots of Smaug. And I mean very scant. He just swoops in and destroys stuff, sort of like what he did in the Star Trek Into Darkness poster this m...
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New poster for The Monkey King starring Donnie Yen


Dec 03
// Hubert Vigilla
In the comments of the 12 best Donnie Yen fights, hbomb and I mentioned that we hadn't heard anything about The Monkey King in a while. It's an IMAX 3D fantasy epic directed by Soi Cheang and based off characters from Wu Chen...
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The Hobbit midnight IMAX posters; stream the film score


Nov 30
// Hubert Vigilla
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be out in two weeks, if you can believe it. And so the hype machine continues with a new TV spot and lots of other keen things. First of all, if you're attending a midnight 3D IMAX scre...

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